As a parent of a child with food allergies, does Halloween make your skin crawl? What’s a parent to do when they want to keep their child safe but their little goblin so desperately wants to join in on the door to door fun? Here are a few strategies to consider:
Enlist the Help of a Few Neighbors
1. SECRET PASSWORD: Nobody wants a child to miss out on the big night. Most friends and neighbors will be thrilled to stash your candy alternatives by their front door. If your alternative treat needs to be kept separate from other food substances, be sure to let them know. If your child is old enough and/or you are not present, just tell them that Mrs. Smith needs to hear the secret password (e.g. “monster mash”) because she is saving something just for them.
2. Create a “TREASURE HUNT” with clues that lead your little pirate to the buried treasure where X marks the spot. Give ten clues to ten neighbors; use brown grocery bag paper, black ink and even singe the edges for that authentic “treasure map” look. Each piece of paper provides the next clue on where to go: “Yo ho ho, ye pirate gents! Go to the next house with the white picket fence!” Little do they suspect that the 10th clue will send them back to their own house, where they will discover a giant X and a special treasure buried beneath, just for them!
3. TREATS don’t have to be FOOD. For many kids with special needs and/or food challenges, edible treats are just not an option. Parenting Special Needs Magazine offers decals that can be hung on the home, notifying parents that they offer non-food treats.
Tangible Alternatives to Candy
1. Eyeballs (and other spooky treats): Google that Michael’s coupon or head to your favorite craft store to stock up on creative options for candy. Whether you are trying to avoid sugar or the top 8 allergens, bringing home a pillow-sack of party favors such as blood-shot super ball eyes, miniature magnifying glasses, Halloween stickers or a tiny decks of cards is still a nice pile of loot for your little goblins to dump on the living room floor when they get home!
2. My favorite treats are glow-in-the-dark bracelets. We activate all of them just before the doorbell starts to ring and put them in a clear plastic bowl so they give off an eerie glow when we open the front door and so kid can just pop them on their wrists. Because my nick-name is “safety-mom”, I feel better knowing that everyone’s kids are a bit more visible running around in the dark.
3. Think outside the box. Most toy or craft stores have bins of whistles, harmonicas and bubbles to use in replace of candy. Don’t forget small packets of origami paper, craft buttons, jewelry kits and beads, etc. Believe me, parents all over town will be eternally grateful to see something creative in their children’s sacks rather than yet another pack of sour gummy worms. Create a little karma for yourself!
In addition to the general safety considerations for all trick-or-treaters noted here, there are additional safety considerations for children with food allergies:
1. SEPARATE CANDY: Make it clear to other adults if alternative treats need to be separate from other food substances due to cross-contamination.
2. Bring an EPI-PEN and if you are not accompanying your child, make sure his friends know where the pen is stored.
3. Trick or Treating IN GROUPS only. As for any child, stay together.
4. Give your child a fully-charged CELL PHONE with emergency numbers on top; make sure her friends know how to use it, too.
5. Make sure your child is wearing an ID bracelet that is visible despite her costume.
6. Ask the other children to WAIT to eat their candy until it can be inspected at home.
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